The CW’s Gotham Knights: Season 1, Episodes 1-6 Review

Note: this is a spoiler-free review of the first six episodes of Gotham Knights. The series premiere airs on The CW on Tuesday, March 14 at 9pm ET.

Many DC fans have probably written off Gotham Knights long before its actual premiere, given the massive shake-up at The CW and the likelihood that Season 1 will be its last. And while it would be nice to say that the series actually makes a strong case for itself in its first batch of episodes, the truth is anything but. Gotham Knights is a bland, flavorless Batman adaptation that only serves to recycle the worst of The CW’s superhero TV cliches.

While not connected in any way to the recent video game of the same name, Gotham Knights does feature an oddly similar premise: the first episode opens with the murder of Bruce Wayne (David Miller), forcing the younger heroes of Gotham to fill the void left by Batman. There’s also a deep conspiracy involving the secret society known as the Court of Owls. Suffice it to say that Gotham Knights, for all its problems, does a much better job executing that basic premise.

The decision to anchor the series around an original character rather than one of the many Robins from the comics is certainly odd, and it’s one that immediately works against Gotham Knights. It’s hard to know what to make of Oscar Morgan’s character Turner Hayes, who comes across as a half-baked fusion of Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. The series tells us very little about his personality and his relationship with Bruce before Turner and his allies are framed for his father’s murder and the plot gets underway. There’s no source material for us to fall back on with Turner, and a combination of bland dialogue and paper-thin characterization make for a thoroughly uninteresting protagonist. It’s hard to even say whether Morgan’s performance is at fault here, because the series so rarely gives him anything to do beyond brood handsomely or deliver another round of junior detective exposition.

The same is true for the rest of the show’s ensemble cast, to one degree or another. The wooden, generic dialogue does no one any favors. Olivia Rose Keegan at least has some fun with her performance as the Joker’s daughter, Duela, injecting ample amounts of Joker-y, manic energy into her scenes. But she’s also almost entirely superfluous as a character, in part because the cast of Gotham Knights is far larger than it has any right to be. There are too many teen heroes and not enough conflict to go around. Fallon Smythe’s Harper Row and Anna Lore’s Stephanie Brown wind up competing with one another for the role of this show’s designated Felicity Smoak-style tech genius. Even Navia Robinson’s Carrie Kelley – the Robin of this particular universe – sometimes feels like a refugee from a completely different Gotham City teen drama.

A smaller, more focused cast would certainly have helped, but there’s still the fact that Gotham Knights has neither a compelling central mystery nor memorable action scenes to counteract the poor characterization. The Court of Owls-focused conspiracy is predictable and unexciting. Particularly if you’ve read DC’s New 52-era Batman comics, there’s not much in the way of shocking plot twists to be found here. Worse, nearly every episode is saddled with more mundane forms of teen drama that could have been recycled from any number of other CW shows. Why, in a series about teen fugitives fighting for their very freedom, is there a subplot about a character skipping class and getting in trouble with their mother?

There are some comparisons to be drawn between Gotham Knights and the various Arrowverse shows, but the action scenes don’t live up to that standard. The fights are few and far between, which is bad enough for a series about young vigilantes in Gotham City. But even when they do come along, these battles are quick and choppily edited. Episode 6 features a laughable sequence where Turner and friends clumsily beat up a gang of gun-toting crooks who seem content to stand around and wait to be knocked unconscious. Turner’s not exactly a chip off the old Bat-clock.

Misha Collins’ District Attorney Harvey Dent is the one ray of light in this otherwise boring mess of a Batman show. Initially, Dent comes across more like Commissioner Gordon – that one good cop carrying the torch in a sea of corruption. But as the series delves deeper into his fragile psychological state and tortured past, Harvey emerges as the one fully realized and compelling protagonist in Gotham Knights. Collins captures the warring sides of Harvey’s personality well, if not the suave charm common to most incarnations of the character (again, that’s more due to the writing than a question of acting ability). Two-Face fans may find this enough justification to stick with Gotham Knights for the long haul. But for everyone else, there’s not nearly enough on display in the first six episodes to warrant that level of commitment.